In certain parts of America, Baptist churches still hold “cowbell” services that offer churchgoers a Sunday succession of clergy sharing brief vignettes intended to motivate and inspire their congregation to commit to lives of public service. If a shepherd addresses his flock beyond the allotted time, a moderator rings a cowbell, which is the preacher’s signal that their time is up. When they’ve overstayed their welcome, someone whispers, “Ring the cowbell.”

In a famous Saturday Night Live skit, a Blue Oyster Cult cover band is cutting a song in the studio – constantly interrupted by their hare-brained percussionist and the band’s producer, who keeps chiding the musicians to use “more cowbell.”

The more the cowbell is struck, the more it drowns out the band’s vocals and melody, ruining the song. There’s something basic and rudimentary about this simple instrument. The more percussion it kicks off, the more its noise deafens one’s ability to think of anything else. It becomes the essence of absurdity.

Can you hear the cowbell yet?

In the Old West, the myth of America was embodied in the cowboy – independent, self-sufficient, skilled and capable of moving a herd of restless and simple bovines across vast distances.

The western hero was a paradox — a force of nature that possessed flaws but found redemption in his commitment to a set of ideals that influenced his actions in times of crisis and conflict.

When fear would send others diving for cover out of self-preservation, the western hero was racing ahead of the stampeding herd, attempting to prevent it from running itself over a cliff.

A century and a half later, it seems the ideal of the western hero is dead and the cattle are getting restless. And I keep hearing more cowbell.

A majority of U.S. adults, 58%, say a third U.S. political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic parties “do such a poor job” representing the American people. The electorate has begun to morph from strong livestock into feckless lemmings eager to follow someone, anyone,toward a safer direction.

As voters, most of us no longer recognize the familiar call of our legacy party as we stumble in the dark, longing for a safe place to cast a vote.

The dust-up can be seen from across the globe. To reestablish control of the electoral herd, our two entrenched political groups have chosen pathetic progeny from their ranks. And it ain’t pretty.

On one side of the field, we find a restless knot of unemployed cowhands led by a bell cow that can best be described as “a shoot from the lip, megalomaniac whose empathy was removed at birth.” He has little skill but tells tales as deep and cavernous as the Grand Canyon. He rides high on his horse but lacks the calluses or the temperament to cross a thousand miles of desert to safety.  Yet, I can hear him yell to his constituents, “We need more cowbell!”

On the leeward part of the pasture, we see a bow-legged matriarch become bloated feeding at the public trough. In the past several years, she and her right hand have personally enriched themselves to the tune of $50M. Tumbleweeds follow her. The saddle bags are full of gold and she needs more cowbell to drown out the noise of the shovel as she buries her personal surfeit.

To listen to the noise and confusion of these two greenhorns is to experience real frustration.

The recent party conventions of each group attempted to help them get organized and chart out the next phase of the drive. One group lowed with dark conviction about a world that has become one massive abattoir filled with wild forces of nature all seeking to destroy us. The other party brushed past the wanted posters for its leaders and instead focused on amnesty, forgiveness and tolerance for themselves. The only prerequisite for membership in this drive was a distain for those who stomped on the other side of the split rail fence.

“And we need more cowbell…”

It’s sad that we’ve disintegrated into this sewer of City Slickers. No matter whom we choose, we are likely to end up like the Donner Party, eating one another alive — lost in the wilderness of our own division.

I can hear them as they seek out the best route with their subordinates and handlers. “We need something to distract the herd. What can we do to move above the noise and unanswered questions?” Deep down, they know they must deconstruct the rhetoric of our past and nonetheless acquiesce to the voices of their shameless yes-people steering them down the trail of political expediency.

With the help of convenient surveys, charts and maps, their minions insist we are no longer a melting pot of self-sufficient immigrants twitching at the edge of a great land rush to stake our claim and carve out a new life. We must remind people that life is a zero-sum game. One woman’s loss is another man’s gain. If you are a “have-not,” your natural enemy is the person who has what you want. Life’s not fair but you can do something about it. It’s no longer about ensuring a fair shake for everyone by policing the starting line for the Sooners. We’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. We need enemies and we need fear. Fear motivates the electorate to allow for martial law and steps on personal freedom as a route to incarcerated protection. The new normal is about ensuring equal outcomes and rewriting our quaint but ersatz history of rugged individualism.

These cowboy cannibals resolve that it won’t be easy to rewrite American history, but a good start is by vilifying the values that were once the foundation for an entire nation. Convince people that they have been excluded and screwed and that this danger is growing.  Socially engineer a need: a new yardstick that takes into account all your personal impediments to success and seeks to repatriate what you may have forfeited as a result of bad choices or disadvantage.

There’s a need for a new sheriff in town who will rid us of the freedom to think, choose and speak. Obliterate prejudice.

Right side of the fence? We need more fear and higher walls. Left? We need more division and social policy which normalizes to the new low mean. We have to distract the electorate because it won’t be popular. Anyone have any ideas?

A bright eyed Poly Sci Ph.D. spin doctor wearing ill-fitting cowboy boots raises his soft palm.”I think we just need more cowbell.”